Political News

‘This is not the Europe I imagined’: Head of largest EU Parliament group condemns lack of democracy after leaders ignore election results

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'This is not the Europe I imagined': Head of largest EU Parliament group condemns lack of democracy after leaders ignore election results 2



'This is not the Europe I imagined': Head of largest EU Parliament group condemns lack of democracy after leaders ignore election results 3

EU leaders are “damaging democracy” by ignoring the results of the European parliament elections, the leader of the legislature’s largest party has said.

Manfred Weber, whose centre-right group won last month’s contest, said the decision by leaders to reject all the candidates for European Commission president and instead pick a little-known ally of Angela Merkel in a closed meeting was “not the Europe I imagined”.

It comes as a poll by German broadcaster ARD found that the German public does not support the appointment of Ursula von der Leyen, the leaders’ pick for the top job. More than half (56 per cent) said they did not agree with the decision. Another recent poll in Der Spiegel magazine found she was the second most unpopular cabinet minister in Germany.


“Suddenly we see that Macron and Orban are working together and damaging the democratic principles of Europe,” Mr Weber, who was the lead candidate for the winning European People’s Party, said on Friday morning.

“I can honestly say that this is not the Europe I imagined. I will continue to fight for the democratisation of the EU.”

Speaking on Friday morning Jean-Claude Juncker, who Ms Von der Leyen is set to replace, said the process for appointing his successor was “not very transparent”.

“I was the first and the last spitzenkandidat,” he said, referring to the system of parties picking lead candidates for the job ahead of the election. “Unfortunately it did not become a tradition.”

Mr Weber’s candidacy was opposed by both Emmanuel Macron, the centrist French president, and Viktor Orban, the far-right leader of Hungary. Mr Orban also blocked another lead candidate, Frans Timmermans of the socialist group. 

As negotiations came to a close earlier this week, a spokesperson for Mr Orban said: “In our unity, the Visegrád Four [central and eastern European countries with populist governments] have again demonstrated our growing strength and influence over the direction of EU. 

Ursula von der Leyen is set to be new Commission president (Reuters)

“After defeating Weber, the V4 prime ministers have toppled Timmermans as well. As negotiations continue we have put on the EU table a package that is winning acceptance among a growing number of member countries: the Visegrád Four support German minister of defence Ursula von der Leyen as the next EU Commission president.”

While the nomination for Ms Von der Leyen by the Council requires European parliament approval, MEPs are not expected to block her, in part to avoid a showdown between EU institutions. 

In a sitting at the parliament on Thursday, the body’s different political groups from across the spectrum lined up to criticise the process as an undemocratic carve-up.



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Political News

‘Wolf of Wall Street’ producer charged with siphoning off $248m from 1MDB

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'Wolf of Wall Street' producer charged with siphoning off $248m from 1MDB 5



'Wolf of Wall Street' producer charged with siphoning off $248m from 1MDB 6

Malaysian prosecutors have charged a Wolf of Wall Street film producer with money laundering, alleging he pocketed $248m linked to state investment fund 1MDB.

Riza Aziz – a co-founder of Hollywood production company Red Granite Pictures which was behind the Oscar-nominated film and stepson of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak – was charged with five counts of money laundering.

Mr Riza pleaded not guilty to all the charges. Each charge carries a financial penalty of up to five million ringgit ($1.21 million), a maximum jail term of five years, or both.


The court granted Mr Riza bail at one million ringgit and asked him to surrender his passports.

After unexpectedly losing an election to Mahathir Mohamad in May last year, Mr Najib has been slapped with a series of corruption charges, mostly tied to losses at now-defunct 1MDB.

Mr Najib, who founded 1MDB in 2009, faces 42 criminal charges related to huge losses at the fund and other state entities. He has pleaded not guilty and has consistently denied wrongdoing.

The US Justice Department has estimated that a total of $4.5bn was misappropriated by high-level officials at 1MDB and their associates between 2009 and 2014.

1MDB is being investigated in at least six countries for alleged money laundering and graft.

US prosecutors have said Red Granite had financed three films using funds they suspect were stolen from 1MDB.

Red Granite paid the US government $60m in September 2017 to settle a civil forfeiture claim over the rights to The Wolf of Wall Street.

Reuters



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Brexit Party MEPs branded ‘extremists’ for Ode to Joy stunt: ‘We would never turn our back on the British anthem’

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Brexit Party MEPs branded 'extremists' for Ode to Joy stunt: 'We would never turn our back on the British anthem' 8



Brexit Party MEPs branded 'extremists' for Ode to Joy stunt: 'We would never turn our back on the British anthem' 9

A top member of the European Parliament has lambasted the Brexit Party as “extremists” after they staged a protest in the body’s chamber on Tuesday.

Esteban González Pons, spokesperson for the legislature’s largest group, the centre-right EPP, called out Nigel Farage’s party during a debate.

The MEP said he would never treat Britain with the same disrespect the British MEPs had shown to Europe.


“To the extremists, I don’t know if they’re here today – but turning your back on the European anthem, I would just remind you that we would never turn our back on the British anthem. That’s the difference between us,” he told the MEPs.

Mr Golzalez Pons, a Spanish, added: “I am speaking here as part of a profound pro-European political group, we want to build Europe up from its foundations.”

Brexit Party MEPs turned their backs while the EU anthem, Ode to Joy was playing at the official opening of the parliament on Tuesday. 

The protest, which was previously staged by Ukip each year, angered anti-Brexit campaigners, who said the protest was childish and disrespectful. 

Some on social media even likened Mr Farage’s party to the Nazis, on the basis that Adolf Hitler’s party once turned their backs during a debate in the Reichstag.



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